March 22 (UPI) -- With the United States leaving the Paris climate deal, the European Union can take the lead by reforming its sustainable finance regimes, its president said.
The European Commission hosted high-level talks in Brussels on how to reform its financial system to align more closely with EU climate efforts and the Paris climate deal.
"Through the ambitious targets set in the historic Paris climate agreement, and the commitment to be a world leader in renewables, Europe is already leading the fight against climate change," Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement. "But to get there, Europe's financial sector must lead the green transition and make our Union the global destination for sustainable investment.
Among the measures on the agenda is a call to establish a common classification system to determine what constitutes sustainable finance and where it can make the most impact. Elsewhere, the commission is working to determine a labeling system to identify green financial products so that investors can more easily comply with the low-carbon agenda.
The commission said that in order to do its part to address the impacts of climate change, it needs to put more capital behind the effort. To achieve climate and energy targets set for 2030, the commission is anticipating a multi-billion dollar funding gap.
Outside to the bloc, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said an agreement with the International Solar Alliance late last year put it closer to its commitment of sending 40 percent of its annual investments toward green finance by 2020.
To date, the EBRD said it's invested more than $4.5 billion directly on renewable energy, backing the development of 6.5 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity in more than 20 countries
"There is no greater return on investment then a healthy planet and economy," Junker said Thursday.
Junker has said the bloc is setting its sights on becoming a global leader in renewable energy development as the United States signals its intention to leave the international climate agreement. With Nicaragua the latest to join, only the United States and Syria are standing on the sidelines.
"With the United States withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the EU should establish itself as the destination for low-carbon technologies and sustainable investments, securing a substantial competitive advantage," the commission said.
EU member states agreed to bloc-wide targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent from a 1990 benchmark, using renewable energy for at least 27 percent of total demand and improving energy efficiency by 27 percent by 2030.